Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tracy Rocker joins Pruitt's staff

It's unofficially official - - - >

Big hire and great addition to the staff. There were rumors that Rocker wasn't fond of recruiting during his days with Auburn and Arkansas. Whether that's true or not, he should be great for the Atlanta area high schools. And plus, his work with defensive lines has been stellar at every stop on his resume.

This is great news. Wilson leaving left a hole in a spot where there had been great improvement. It's debatable whether the Rocker hire should be seen as an upgrade. But it's a legitimate debate for sure. Richt ain't playing around y'all.

The repugnance of the recruiting game

The great literary hero Ignatius Reilly once said, "I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip." Will you join the fight against the confederacy of recruitnik dunces?

If you're the type that can only read what's along the surface you may want to skip on along. Because this is probably going to sound like I'm typing whilst looking down my nose. Even when I'm not. And it's important to note that I'm not breaking any ground here, merely stating the obvious - recruiting is a game that is ruled by constant coverage, speculation, rumors, message bored fodder, internet anonymity, and an incessant, rampant desire to turn one facet of college football into a filthy soap opera. On occasion, yes, I have been a part of the problem.

And while I cannot begin to tolerate the populace that gets markedly more excited over a seventeen year old's successful facsimile transmission than it does a win in Jacksonville, I certainly understand the allure of National Signing Day. In fact, despite the words and tone of this post, I plan to again be there on the floor of Butts-Mehre in a couple weeks. National Signing Day is the beginning of the new dawn. It's when the frost first begins to warm on the practice fields as they ready themselves for spring drills. It is the day you can faintly - ever so slightly and way off in the distance - hear the crack of the pads in preparation for the new season.

"Hey. Did Todd Gurley see his shadow?"

But I digress. No, I really do enjoy following the culmination of a recruiting cycle. It's the never-ending craptasical drama in between that disgusts me. It's the ugly underbelly that exposes national recruiting as a business that chews up kids' names just to make a headline, generate a click and ultimately turn a profit. Don't get me wrong, there's some real positives to the process along the way. A recent local one was Rico Johnson clearing a hurdle and realizing his dream once again. So many like him could've come up short of that goal despite a second chance at it. Many others would've just given up. He didn't. Instead he worked hard and will be a better man for it. But for every good and well meaning story there's countless others that expose any minutiae of "news" as vitally important, or worse as a scandalous development. And really, what can be so scandalous about a high school student-athlete changing his mind about how interested he is in a particular program?

This is supposed to be about celebrating youthful achievements and the realization of a true reward at the end of one of life's many long, arduous paths. Hey, I'm an idealist. What can I say?

Instead we have high school kids milking the moment for all it's worth (and who can blame them really?), without truly having earned such enormous attention yet. And they are greatly outnumbered by lazy fans of this recruiting game; mostly guys that for whatever reason spend money and countless hours defining their own self-worth by how their team finishes in the recruiting rankings. If I can hardly fathom how someone's success in life is bound by the record of the team they cheer for on Saturdays, then I have absolutely no hope of comprehending how decisions made by seventeen year old strangers affect a grown man's happiness and disposition. These guys applaud loudly when a high school star tweets that he enjoyed a visit to Athens and a chance to meet Coach Richt. They pump their fists wildly when the kid is rumored to be leaning towards UGA. But when the faxes get rolling, and the machine dials a different area code, suddenly this teenage stranger is worthy of all manner of insults. God forbid a kid change his mind about something as important as where to spend his college years.

Granted, these "fans" are the same mental giants that probably clogged up their own high school lunch line because they couldn't decide between a slice of pizza or a corndog.

No, this is not my game. In the world of recruiting coverage I am just a two-star with a slow hip turn who is lazy in the weight room. I truly appreciate the guys that actually do cover this "game". As Georgia fans we're lucky to have some of the best. They're the ones, for the most part, that truly connect with these kids and see them as actual human beings instead of names with stars stacked beside them.

In reality this has been coming for some time now. I guess I continued to update with posts on recruiting developments because I really do understand how important it is to Georgia football. But recently things have turned for me. The end result, as fun as it is to see who is coming to Athens, is not worth the sleazy fight the other 364 days of the year. Like I said the other day, there are plenty of blogs, websites and actual analysts where one can get better evaluation of how Georgia coaches are doing on the recruiting trails. But I'll no longer be a part of that game, both here on the blog as well as in practice at other locations.

When Fortuna spins you downward, go out to a movie and get more out of life.” Yes Ignatius. I think I'll do just that.

Happy Birthday Coach Magill!

In a world of Damn Good Dawgs, Coach Magill is always at the top. And 93 years young today!

via Coach Diaz

Friday, January 24, 2014

The repugnance of the recruiting game (prelude)

The recruiting game will go on into perpetuity. But it will do so without my words 
adding even one innocuous whiff of propane to its furious blaze.

The premise being that recruiting is a game of self-aggrandizing, stars and bulldog puppies. And yeh, so originally the plan was for one post and it turned out to be three. Apologies and all, but I'm not perfect. Today you get this, tomorrow the bulk and then I'll wrap it up Sunday morning. Funny thing is, between now and then some "true Dawg fan" is gonna lose his mind four+ times over some tweet by a kid he considers the most important recruit of the entire Mark Richt era.

Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to meet and spend a small amount of time with a young man in possession of a true love for the game of football. His love for it goes beyond anything I can possibly comprehend. Mainly for the reasons that he's quite good at it and I'm only slightly proficient at watching it. Fortunately, because he is really good at football he gained much notoriety for his play and became quite a star.

Unfortunately, he was not fully equipped to handle the almost instant fame and attention. What's more, at least by my judgment, he never had that special someone in his life to remind him that he's not exactly all that and a bag of chips. In reality, regardless of our unique proficiencies, we're never as good as we hope we are because there's always room for improvement. Always.

So now we wait to see how much this young man has improved. In the mean time, the short of it is that I hope and trust he'll make the most of future opportunities. I believe life taught him a difficult lesson and that he'll be better for it in the long run. I've always been a believer that things happen for a reason. But it's up to us to make it a good and beneficial reason.

For me, I'm taking this chance encounter as a reason to change how I interact with and process recruiting coverage. I've given this a lot of thought. There's a line with this game that creates a border between what is logical, well meaning and what is superfluous and self-promoting. For example, websites that cover recruiting may post a development with a specific player that is timely and pertinent. But the subsequent commenting on said post devolves into some freakish "mine's bigger" competition and outright mudslinging. I've usually successfully steered clear of the latter, but that doesn't mean I don't see the dirt stains.

And I've grown very tired of the dirt stains.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The off season reset button

Sure it's an off season quote that's a dime a dozen. But this one has a fresh air about it doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Offensive line recruiting - perpetuating the pattern

**First, a disclaimer. This is the first of only two posts I will have on recruiting. I usually hit the topic pretty hard with updates from December until Signing Day. I'll get into why there won't be that kind of coverage here going forward in a post scheduled for tomorrow, most likely. But if you've followed recruiting here you already know there are other blogs that devote more time and space to it, and to be quite honest do a much better job with it. So at least you won't be missing the next live bulldog puppy unveiling. :)**

Recruiting opened back up last Thursday. Currently, Georgia has 17 commitments and is zeroing in on some big targets between now and February 5th. Indications are we could see somewhere around 20-22 new signatures. As usual, Richt already has a stellar class in place, headlined by running back standouts Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

The concern with this post is who will block for those guys; more specifically, the focus and attention (or lack thereof) being put into recruiting the "big uglies" that make the holes and provide the protection for the "stat breakers".

Last month we looked at a possible 2014 depth chart for the returning offensive linemen:

When you look at that chart class-wise, it's perfectly proportioned with four sophomores, four juniors and four seniors. The question that has steadily and consistently wore on during Richt's tenure is - but are they perfectly proportioned depth and talent-wise? As we've discussed before, if there's an achilles heel to Coach Richt's time in Athens it is the offensive line. A position group plagued by numerous maladies - injuries, lack of depth, Mark Emmert's fascination with Kolton Houston's urine samples, mysterious hands in cookie jars, arcane admission rules regarding immigrated students, and other departures for greener pastures - the offensive line at Georgia hasn't realized its true and lasting potential in quite some time.

The problems have been so varied and widespread, even when the offensive line performs well, fans are quick to wonder if it's just a running back's skills that are making them look good. Sure enough, a Knowshon Moreno leaves or a Todd Gurley succumbs to injury and the holes that were once there dry up just as quickly. December comes and we all get fixated on the athletic, leaner names again...the next huge potential signee that could break all the records...forgetting the lack of true rotation in the offensive front. A cursory glance is given the big guys on the board, then the focus turns to whether this five star running back will cross the border or whether the Georgia coaches can sway that incredible defensive end that would be a difference maker off the edge.

Important pieces, sure. No question. But what about those guys up front? Do we have a target on the board that could be developed into a future first round NFL tackle? Do we have a commitment from a kid that might be an All-SEC guard for three years?

In so many ways, fans are as much to blame as the coaches perhaps. After all, there's nothing sexy and ESPNU All Access about a 300 pound behemoth. Is there?

But here's the crux of the problem, and in all honesty it goes beyond the Richt era. The University of Georgia doesn't produce All American type talent on the offensive line. In fact, since the Bulldogs' last National Title game there have only been four total - Strozier ('77), M. Stinchcomb ('97 '98), J. Stinchcomb ('02) and Jean-Gilles ('05). By comparison, Alabama has had four since 2009. 

Speaking of which brings me to this piece by recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree where the Crimson Tide are crowned Offensive Line U. There's an inherent danger in too many comparisons to other programs, but take this quote...
"There's an expectation that few other places have," Robinson said. "I didn't want to go someplace and have zero expectations. I always thought I thrived on stress, and being an offensive tackle at Alabama, there is plenty of it."
That's from five-star offensive tackle prospect Cameron Robinson out of West Monroe LA. Now, we weren't going to get Robinson's signature. This isn't about missing out on him as a prospect. It's about a change in culture when it comes to recruiting for the offensive line (in both quantity and quality) and developing them into SEC caliber players.

Is there "stress" at UGA about competing for spots at tackle? At guard? Do veterans feel pushed each and every snap? Can we go two or three deep at each spot if necessary? Will we ever come close to the problem Saban enjoys of just putting in the next Andre Smith or DJ Fluker or Barrett Jones or Cyrus Kouandijo. Hell, the Crimson Tide even loses offensive line position coaches and they still don't miss a beat as far as developing top notch talent and high draft picks.

And that's where it speaks to recruiting. I could sit here and say we don't offer the right guys or that we offer the wrong guys, but the truth is I don't really know. However it's obvious that we don't bring in enough ready and able bodies for the wear and tear of the positions that defend against these future NFL pass rushing monsters. When we're relying on a guy to start the season opener at right tackle who hasn't played a down of football in three years, that's just self-imposed insanity.

So where are we now? We have four guys committed in Kendall Baker, Dyshon Sims, Jake Edwards
and Isaiah Wynn. Of those four, two are prospective guards (Edwards and Wynn) and two are expected to mature into tackles (Baker and Sims). All four are highly thought of in recruiting circles. It's always hard to say how much an offensive lineman could possibly contribute as a freshman considering the learning curve and the usual need for added, well proportioned weight, but it's reasonable to expect all four to push for playing time by this time next year at the latest.

All in all, four talented, highly recruited guys that want to play in Athens. And I'd take four more just like them, along with 12 more like the guys already in that depth chart. Unfortunately, most believe Georgia is done recruiting offensive line for this year's class. Like we said earlier, you need guys that can make the plays; athletic young men that can make a move, stretch out for an acrobatic catch and find another gear to take the ball to the endzone. But you also need big, athletic, rugged human bodies down in the trenches that make those plays possible from the snap of the ball. A lot of them.

So as I steer away from covering recruiting here, I'd just like to throw two more pennies in the well - Georgia needs a more focused, direct approach at getting and developing offensive linemen capable of the rigor the SEC provides. Right now, we're not there. We're just perpetuating the pattern that's been in Athens for a very long time.

Humpday Hilarity - just an average dose of "florida fail"

Bored of looking for something outlandishly funny on YouTube to put here, I reached for an old UGA blogging trick; something that has stood the tests of time as both hilarious as well as cautionary to young readers that they should in no way ever consider wearing jorts.

So now I present to you yet two more reasons the gators suck.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Defensive coaching search in a holding pattern

It's apparent that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt wants to see what Florida State does with his former assistants before moving forward in replacing secondary coach Scott Lakatos, inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Chris Wilson.

One line of thinking is that FSU will promote either Sal Sunseri or Charles Kelly to defensive coordinator, leaving Pruitt to take whomever is not promoted. Since Sunseri coaches defensive ends and Kelly coaches linebackers, this makes moving forward on either vacancy difficult at the present moment.

But there's more than that at play here I believe.

  • It was pretty clear that the Seminoles made a move for Mississippi State's Geoff Collins, who just re-inked in Starkville for a hefty raise. Does that show a lack of faith in Sunseri or Kelly? Does that mean Jimbo Fisher plans to hire a defensive coordinator from outside altogether? 
  • So, if Fisher did go outside of Tallahassee to hire Pruitt's replacement, would both Sunseri and Kelly be offered a spot in Athens? I think so, but there's no real way of knowing. The more likely reason that Pruitt hasn't hired anyone yet is that he wants Kelly and/or Sunseri in place (whether it's in Athens, Tallahassee or somewhere else) before he makes his first move and subsequent decisions on staff personnel and responsibilities.
  • What's best for Georgia? Well, quite obviously Pruitt and his assistants did a fine job of maintaining things last season. It'd be nice for Pruitt to get the gang back together again. And of course, it'd be nice for that to happen soon. So...
  • As antsy as Georgia fans are about hitting the last couple weeks of the recruiting trail with a full defensive staff, imagine how FSU fans feel? More importantly, their targets for letters of intent. With no defensive coordinator on staff and the assistants in limbo, there is zero sense of stability. This makes me think we'll hear something sooner rather than later. In the mean time, Georgia has trained and gotten approval for others to carry the recruiting burden in lieu of defensive position coaches. Most notably Christian Robinson, who I would imagine is quite popular with recruits and their mommas.
  • Lastly, how does Clemson's move on Dabo and staff factor into FSU's decision making here?
Back to that third bullet. I'd especially like to get Kelly on staff. His experience has mostly been in the secondary (he's the linebackers coach at FSU) but he also has a lot of background working with special teams as well. I think his addition to the staff would give Pruitt some immediate as well as long term flexibility. Not to mention that Kelly has been recruiting the south for some time, as well as some familiar names we'd like to add early next month.

For those still clamoring for one solitary functioning special teams coach, please don't hold your breath. That's just not going to happen. Richt made that pretty clear in Pruitt's opening press conference. That doesn't mean we can't get some new ideas and new perspectives introduced into our special teams' roles, responsibilities and philosophies. Which is why these new hires are particularly interesting.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Also, read Hale's piece breaking down the Seminole side of the Pruitt move. Some good points about the defensive staff maintaining the numbers/rankings that Mark Stoops' staff had the years before as well as how recruiting (specifically in the state of Alabama) might factor into their defensive coordinator search.

Measuring Murray up

Good article and video here by Andy Staples on Aaron Murray getting measured, both by NFL scouts and his own peers.
Murray hopes coaches will judge him more by his 35-17 record and by the way he played when his team needed him most. Can he throw under pressure? Check out this third-and-13 play that sealed the win against South Carolina on Sept. 6. Is he mobile? Check out this run against Tennessee, which came after the Bulldogs had lost nearly every key skill position player on offense to injury except Murray.
Or ask a teammate. Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch is playing for the South team this week, and he came to Athens with Murray in the class of 2009. "He's the epitome of what you'd want as a quarterback," Lynch said. Lynch said Murray had the team's respect in his first game as the starter in 2010, and Lynch said Murray is still earning his respect. "For [goodness] sakes, he's out here and he can't even drop back," Lynch said. "But he's out here taking mental reps and helping quarterbacks who are essentially his competition. He's encouraging me. What else could you ask for?"
Or, better yet, ask an opponent. Former LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow faced Murray between the hedges on Sept. 28. "If I had to pick a word, it would be underrated," said Barrow, whose Tigers lost, 44-41, and gave up four touchdown passes to Murray. "I think he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country." In the days leading up to the game, Barrow marveled at Murray's pocket poise in watching him on video. When the Tigers saw Murray in person, they still weren't ready for his ability to escape pressure. "He made some plays against us where I thought we had him sacked and then, whoop, it's right over your head," Barrow said.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Coach Pruitt's healing powers y'all!!

Seriously, really happy for Marshall. Not to pretend to rank all of the tears and sprains from last season, but his was the most heart breaking considering it came in a game where he was going to shine quite brightly. Glad he's on schedule and getting back at it.

Damn Good Dawg!